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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Carnicella

Drywall Hang and Tape a Tray Ceiling

Updated: Apr 30

Drywall Hanging, Taping, and Framing a Tray Ceiling

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A tray ceiling, also called an inverted or recessed ceiling, features a center section that is several inches (or several feet) higher than the areas around the perimeter of the room. This design allows for the use of colors painted on the trim that can turn

a bland ceiling into a focal point

Tray Ceiling
Tray Ceiling

Tray ceilings work best in large rooms with high ceilings, where they can keep a room from appearing cavernous by creating visual depth in the room. The higher center of the ceiling also provides an opportunity to create a focal point by hanging a beautiful chandelier, pendant light or ceiling fan. The center section is also a great place to paint a ceiling mural. Scenes with clouds or stars are popular, but you can paint any scene that appeals to you.

Many homeowners install hidden tube lighting along the perimeter of the tray, which is especially nice if the lights are on dimmers so they can be lowered for a romantic look.

In designing your tray ceiling, you can follow the shape of your room or create a different shape to give the room even more visual interest. If your ceiling is very high—ten to twelve feet—you might be able to install a double tray ceiling, creating a stunning architectural focal point overhead. If your style allows, you can go heavy on the trim and paint or stain it in colors that complement your walls and

furnishings. For a simpler, more modern look, forego the trim and create a focal point with lighting, either along the perimeter or with a hanging fixture.

You can hire a professional contractor to build your tray ceiling, or you can do it yourself. Before you decide, consider the scope of your project, the look and materials you want, as well as your budget.

Creating a custom tray ceiling in your dining room can add an elegant and visually appealing architectural element. Here's a general guide to help you with the process:

Materials and Tools:

Lumber (2x4s or other framing material)

Plywood or MDF for the tray



Stud finder

Nails or construction adhesive

Crown molding

Wood filler


Primer and paint

Drop cloths or plastic sheeting

Miter saw


Paintbrushes and rollers

Ladder or scaffolding


Plan and Design:

Decide on the size and shape of your tray ceiling. Sketch out a design and take measurements to determine the amount of material needed.

Locate Ceiling Joists:

Use a stud finder to locate and mark the ceiling joists. This is crucial for proper support when attaching the framing.

Frame the Tray:

Using 2x4s or another framing material, create the frame for the tray. Attach the frame to the ceiling joists securely. Ensure that the frame is level.

Attach drywall to the frame to create the base of the tray. Tape and float all drywall joints. This will form the recessed part of the ceiling. Make sure it is securely attached to the frame.

Install Crown Molding:

Optional - Attach crown molding along the edges of the tray to create a finished and decorative look. Use a miter saw to cut the molding at the appropriate angles for corners.

Fill and Sand:

Fill any gaps, holes, or seams with wood filler. Once dry, sand the surfaces to achieve a smooth finish.

Prime and Paint:

Prime the entire tray ceiling, including the molding. Once the primer is dry, apply the desired paint color. Consider using contrasting colors for the tray and the surrounding ceiling to enhance the visual impact.

Caulk Seams:

Use caulk to fill any gaps between the crown molding and the tray or the surrounding ceiling. This will create a seamless and professional appearance.

Final Touches:

Once the paint and caulk are dry, inspect the tray ceiling for any imperfections. Touch up as needed.

Install Lighting:

Consider adding recessed lighting or other fixtures within the tray to enhance its aesthetic appeal. Consult with an electrician if needed.

Remember to wear appropriate safety gear, use proper tools, and follow local building codes and regulations. If you're not comfortable with any aspect of the construction, consider consulting or hiring a professional contractor for assistance.

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