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Tray Ceilings

Inverted and Recessed Tray Ceilings are Commonly Suspended Ceilings that Drop down from Structural Framing

By Mark J. Donovan


Tray ceilings provide texture and charm to otherwise ordinary ceilings. A tray ceiling is idea for high ceiling rooms where a partial suspended ceiling, or dropped ceiling, can be installed to create either a recessed or inverted tray ceiling. The use of crown molding is another technique for either creating or accenting an existing tray ceiling.

A tray ceiling is effectively a bi-layer or multi-layered ceiling, and is often found in formal rooms such as dining rooms and living rooms. They are often also found in master bedrooms and hallways.


In some cases they may be used as focal points for the inclusion of skylights, ceiling fans, or mural paintings. Tray ceilings are typically constructed in square, rectangular or octagon shapes and are suspended from the overhead structural framing. In some cases special roof trusses with notched out areas in the bottom chord are used to automatically create tray ceiling areas.


More commonly built are recessed tray ceilings where the center of the ceiling area is higher than the outer edges. Less frequently constructed are inverted tray ceilings where the center of the ceiling area is lower than the edges.


Besides providing ceiling texture, tray ceilings are also ideal for creating warm overhead lighting. Often lighting is installed around the interior periphery of a recessed tray ceiling and then hidden from view with crown molding trim work. The result is a warm glow on the ceiling.


If you ever get the opportunity to visit Las Vegas check out some of the arch shaped ceilings with hidden periphery soffit ceiling lighting. Combined with soft blue painted ceilings the arched ceilings resemble a dusk or twilight skyline. Similar light settings can be created in a home with dropped or suspended ceilings and the right type of tray ceiling lighting.

To add a recessed tray ceiling to a room after a home has been built, construct a box frame around the periphery of the ceiling using either wood or metal studs. Make sure to use a screw gun instead of a hammer to fasten the studs to the ceiling joists as you will otherwise crack the ceiling drywall.

Here is an example of a tray ceiling in a bedroom.

Photo by Mark Donovan

Then attach drywall to the frame structure, and tape and mud accordingly. Note that the depth of the ceiling tray depends heavily upon a variety of factors including the ceiling height and door and window heights. Install crown molding to provide additional texture to the tray ceiling.


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How to Repair a Large Drywall Hole Ebook - If you have a large hole in your drywall and need to repair it, you can either call in a drywall contractor and pay an arm and a leg, or you can fix it yourself. The "How to Repair a Large Drywall Hole Ebook" will show you how to repair your damaged wall so that it looks as good as new. 

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