Framing a tray ceiling lends elegance to a room. While you could create the look by raising the ceiling, the more efficient way is to keep the height of the ceiling the same and extend 2x6-inch soffits from the ceiling to create the illusion of a higher ceiling.
While you can use only 2x4-inch boards for this project, using 2x4-inch and .5-inch oriented strand board (OSB), which is a less expensive composite building material that saves money, time, and materials.
Step 1 - Form Flanges
Measure 6-inches or even wider from the corner of the wall. If you have a small room, too wide of a tray will create a closed-in look. Snap a chalk line on the ceiling where you want to install the tray. Nail 2x4-inch boards to the ceiling along the chalk lines. Use adhesive and nail into studs along the ceiling to ensure that the flanges do not fall.
Step 2 - Install OSB
Cut strips of OSB to the height of your tray. Use .5-inch OSB and follow a chalk line to keep the cuts straight. You want the longest pieces possible to keep installation simple and the look clean. Once you have cut the OSB, use wood screws to attach it to the wood flanges on the ceiling. Be sure to fasten it securely.
Step 3 - Create the Bottom Soffit Frames
The most crucial element of a tray ceiling is the bottom soffit frames. Using 2x4-inch boards, measure so that the frame will fit into the space between the wall and the OSB sheet. Make each frame in a single run. Use long 2x4-inch boards as the side frames, then install cross pieces made of 2x4-inch board every 24-inches.
Many homeowners add lights to the soffit. Install those faceplates now, along with any wiring into the soffit, before you nail the frame in place.
Once the frames are constructed and the electrical work is complete, have someone help you hold the frames in place. Screw or nail them securely into the wall studs and OSB.
WARNING: If you don't have much wiring experience, consult a friend who does or contact a professional to help. You don't want to take any chances with anything electrical.
Step 4 - Drywall
After your trays are constructed, install a drywall surface to the OSB and the tray soffit so that you can finish the trays to either match or contrast with the room. Mud and tape with care, since these trays will create visual interest and everyone who enters the room will notice them.
WARNING: Wear safety glasses and gloves while applying drywall mud (and paint or primer, as in the next step) to avoid getting anything into your eyes.
Step 5 - Finish the Trays
Prime and paint the drywall for a finished look. Using molding on the tray ceiling is a dramatic and elegant finishing touch.