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Tray Ceiling Installation for Homeowners

Construction How-To, Construction How-To, Punch!, Remodeling, Remodeling November 17, 2011 Sonia



By Myron R. Ferguson


Tray Ceilings Enhance Ordinary Ceiling Lines to Create Architectural Interest.


Quite often when I mention a tray ceiling to a prospective customer, I find myself quickly explaining that it is not what they think. The project is actually quite simple. Tray ceilings are generally considered by homeowners to be complicated, expensive and time-consuming to build. As a drywall contractor that specializes in decorative drywall work, I build a lot of tray ceilings because they are fast, easy to construct and come out perfect.

I don’t just meet my customers’ expectations, I exceed them.

Tray 1 Tray Ceiling Installation for Homeowners

The different height levels of a tray ceiling can evoke the feeling of spaciousness by making a room’s ceiling appear higher.

A “tray ceiling” is a common term for a recessed ceiling, often with the recessed sides sloped at an angle. The original flat ceiling has its edges lowered to create the center recess area. The lowered edges vary in width according to the dimensions of the room. The basic purpose of a tray ceiling is to break up an ordinary flat ceiling line and add a variation in height to create architectural interest. A feeling of spaciousness can be created by the look of the different levels, and a tray ceiling can make a low ceiling look higher.

Tray 5 Tray Ceiling Installation for Homeowners

Chalk lines are snapped to guide placement of the EZ-Tray. This guarantees a nice, straight edge to the tray ceiling.

Creating the Recess

The entire ceiling should have drywall attached before the tray construction starts. First, determine the width of the lowered area of the ceiling. This varies based on the size of the room and is typically 12 to 24 in. wide. Mark off the layout by snapping chalk lines to use as an installation guide.

Tray 2 Tray Ceiling Installation for Homeowners

2×4 Lumber was ripped to form 1-1/2” strips for the framework of the tray ceiling. The strips are glued and screwed to chalk lines around the perimeter of the room. This photo is of a new construction job, but the same method can be followed for any existing ceiling.

Next, attach furring strips to the ceiling along the wall and inner edge. The furring is 1-1/2-in. thick and should be fastened to the solid framing behind the drywall. Glue and screws are used to secure the furring.

Tray 3 Tray Ceiling Installation for Homeowners

Next, 1/2” thick drywall is attached to the framework. The thickness of the lowered edge is 2”.

Attach 1/2-in. thick drywall to the furring using standard drywall installation techniques. Ceiling panels can be installed with the help of an assistant and a homemade 2×4 T-support (also called a “deadman”). When working alone, you may need to rent a cradle lift, a device that rolls on casters and safely lifts panels as high as 11 ft.

Tray 6 300x199 Tray Ceiling Installation for Homeowners

The edge of the EZ-Tray bead that will fit against the upper section of the ceiling has adhesive caulk applied to it.

Tray 4 Tray Ceiling Installation for Homeowners

The angled edge of the tray ceiling will be created with a special vinyl bead called EZ-Tray manufactured by Trim-Tex Drywall Products. The angled edge is 3” wide. This angled bead is the piece that bridges the lower ceiling to the raised upper ceiling.