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Monday, December 31, 2012

DIY Tray Ceiling

Now that the holidays are over we decided to get moving on a few winter projects since its too cold to be outside, the first is adding a tray ceiling to our dining room. This is a $1000 add-on with RH which believe it or not, we're completing for about $75--that is not a typo.

Of course you do need to already have a few things to keep the cost low:

Drywall Screws
Air Brad Nailer speeds the job up immensly
Drywall Compound
Stud Finder
Miter Saw/Box

After much debating we decided to go with a 6"h x 15" deep tray in the dining room. The casing on the DR entryways left us with 1' above the door, so we stopped the tray halfway, leaving room for the 3" crown that will be added later.

For the framing, we went with 2x2s instead of 2x4s as well as 3/8" sheetrock to keep the weight down and this also directly lowered the cost. Our DR is about 12x14 so this meant a length of (2) 2x2x8 for each course of framing. In total we used (24) 2x2s with a total cost of $40.

Once you determine how tall you want your tray, run a first course around the perimeter of the room at that height. It is the single piece of wood on the wall shown in the picture below. Some people use chalk lines around the room but we just marked the height every few feet. There is no need to miter since all joints will be hidden by drywall.

Always screw into studs and joists when creating any structural additions!
We accept no liability as to the validity or completeness of these instructions!

Next you will need to build some mini-ladder-ish structures to hold what will be the wall of your tray. Make sure you have determined where your ceiling joists are, as this also affects how deep your tray is to become.

If you are missing joists at prime locations, one option is to cut a hole in the ceiling (the part that will be hidden by the tray) and nail in your own cross members. Another option is to buy toggle bolts which have small arms that grab onto the top-side of the drywall to hang things.

These sections are small and will weigh about 10-15lbs each with the sheetrock attached and can easily be supported by either method

Since we decided on 6" height, each long 2x2 is 1.5" high, so 1.5 + 1.5 = 3 and in order to reach 6" we created 3" mini studs to end up with 6". Brad nail them together and also use wood glue or liquid nails.

We went with a 15" deep tray as we think much deeper than that makes the room feel smaller. Mark or chalk that width on your ceiling and attach the mini-ladders at those marks.

Continue adding the "ladders" around the room. We did the shorter walls first so that would cut down on the amount of wood needed for the long walls since they will be butting up against each other.

The last step is to add some 45deg mitered angle pieces to create the octagonal effect, these can be sized to taste but aesthetically the same length as the depth of the tray seemed to work best for us.

Updated 1/1
Happy New Year!!

The drywall went up and dried yesterday and since we typically stay home on 12/31, we brought in the new year doing our favorite things...drinking and painting (not a recommended blend but it was so much fun!) It turned out great and we LOVE our new tray ceiling, which again ran us exactly $76.24, talk about a score! Adding the crown will really make it pop. We also ran some electrical in the tray just in case we decide on some small recessed at a later date.

Next up: Crown Molding, Custom Built-in Shelving and some basement re-vamping with a wet bar & media room, and more...stay tuned :)

-- Ericka

even though the right side looks skewed in the photo, it is perfectly straight! just a weird perspective


  1. Hi Steve & Erica, that looks wonderful. I am going to save this for my DIY project. Thank you for the tip, i can't wait to see the finished work

  2. Very nice... I can't wait to see it completed!

  3. Nice, I cant wait to see the finished product.

  4. The tray ceiling looks beautiful! Well done!

  5. WOW...that is AWESOME!! Love how you guys added casing/framing to the doorways too!


  6. Wow, you did an excellent job! That would have taken us 6 months! Great job... very impressive! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Thanks everybody! It really isnt that much work and the cost savings makes it a no-brainer! You just need to take good measurements and use common sense when it comes to the structure. Were here to help whenever someone wants to take this on :) --Ericka

  8. This is amazing! It gives me so much hope of how I want to customize my own home. Thanks for the tip, and keep the projects coming! Happy New Year to you and your husband!

  9. i <3 your DIY spirit!! that looks amazing!

  10. Going to share this with my daughter! They would love a tray ceiling.

  11. Wow,amazing. my builder is charging almost 2k per room for tray ceiling. your explanations are so simple to follow,I am going to do it myself after I close. Thank you for the tips.

  12. I might need some tips on cutting the trim. My hubby has an air compressor and cutting tools. I'm scared he is going to mess up the angles.

  13. you guys did a great job. I love home projects of all kinds but I have a history of sucking at anything drywall. I can hang it, that's about it.
    Great job.

    1. Thanks man, a few things we've learned about finishing: 1) dont rush it and do multiple coats of mud (we averaged 3 mud/sand cycles) to get a really smooth appearance. 2) dont skimp on the width of the mud knives, the wider the knife the less of a visible transition you will have. 3) Adhesive mesh tape is your friend! Ill add some drywall pics just for posterity :)

  14. Thanks for the great idea - you just gave me another "honey-do" list item!
    Also - where did you get your family room couch? I remember your original photo was a much smaller version of it and I love the large version - we have a really long family room and I would love to take your inspiration and find a solution (OK, I mean that I want to copy because I love yours!). :)

    1. Hi Kimmie thanks! Believe it or not that piece came from JCP! The quality is absolutely amazing, we were really surprised. We got the 4-piece sectional first but it didnt give us the coverage we were looking for (the orig photo) so we contacted customer service and they ordered an additional armless loveseat which adequately fills that back wall. Everyone totally loves it, its always a convo piece. They do offer a 5-piece but it comes with two chaise lounges which isnt what we needed. If we have the same size family room, you will do better with the 4piece and the additional armless. I just checked to get a link for you and it looks like it is discontinued. Not that you possibly cant get a special order by contacting them, but basically a regular sectional with an extra armless love seat/chair will do the trick :) http://www.jcpenney.com/dotcom/jsp/browse/lot.jsp?lotId=7923872&catId=WebID&_requestid=2473367

  15. This is great! Some of the pictures aren't showing but otherwise this is great.

  16. Replies
    1. The first floor ceiling is 9ft tall.

  17. It looks amazing. My ceilings are 8ft tall. I wonder if it would look good if I did the same on mine. I'm just worried it would make it too low on an 8ft ceiling. I would love to do it though.