A tray ceiling doesn’t involve any complicated framing, yet the low-profile change in plane adds a lot of interest to an average-height ceiling. I start by snapping lines around the ceiling perimeter to outline the soffit area. I install 2x2 furring screwed through the drywall into the framing and fasten scrap drywall to the furring.
This soffit can then be finished with different tray-ceiling bead profiles, depending on the style of the room. To match the milled look of the previously installed archways, for example, I used Trim-Tex’s 1 1/2-inch Step A bullnose bead, which has a 3/4-inch radius and 3/16-inch-deep steps on either side of the bullnose. This deep bead profile requires an extra layer of drywall to lower the soffit edge a total of 2 1/2 inches.
For a more contemporary look, a good option is Trim-Tex’s simple beveled tray bead, which also requires a 2 1/2-inch-deep soffit. With this trim, I apply adhesive caulk to the top edge before fastening the bead, then caulk the joint again before finishing the soffit. Instead of simply taping the joint around the perimeter of the room where the wall meets the soffit, I sometimes add strips of drywall here, then finish them with chamfer stop bead or some other type of L-bead.
Before fastening the bead in place with staples, I spray adhesive along the mud legs of the bead. After the bead is installed, I give the tray a typical mud-and-tape three-coat drywall finish.
Depending on the design, I typically charge between $12 to $15 per linear foot for a tray ceiling. I use roughly seven or eight 2x4s ripped into 2x2s to frame the soffit in a 14-foot by 15-foot room; about 120 square feet of scrap drywall to cover it; and five 10-foot strips of tray ceiling bead to finish it. The entire process — furring out the soffit, hanging the drywall, attaching the bead, and compounding and sanding the tray — takes about six and a half hours of labor.
In this room, I also applied a Venetian plaster finish to the ceiling, another drywall upgrade I offer. Venetian plaster is a troweled and burnished finish that gives drywall more depth and texture; I currently charge about $12 per square foot for this type of finish.