Tray ceiling for drop ceilings and method of manufacture and installation therefor — Schoolcraft

Tray ceiling for drop ceilings and method of manufacture and installation therefor - Schoolcraft

MYERS & KAPLAN, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW, L.L.C. (1899 POWERS FERRY ROAD, SUITE 310, ATLANTA, GA, 30339, US)

Claims:

What is claimed is:

1. A tray ceiling for installation within a drop ceiling, said tray ceiling comprising: a configuration adapted to be supported by the support bars of the drop ceiling.

2. The tray ceiling of claim 1, wherein said configuration of said tray ceiling comprises a plurality of side walls in communication with an upper wall.

3. The tray ceiling of claim 2, wherein said plurality of side walls and said upper wall are formed from a light-weight material selected from the group consisting of Birchwood, balsa wood, light-weight wood, plastics, polyvinyl chloride, fiber-plastic composites, rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, rigid expanded polystyrene, structured foam, cellulose materials, and combinations thereof.

4. The tray ceiling of claim 3, wherein said plurality of side walls and said upper wall are structurally reinforced via a plurality of braces.

5. The tray ceiling of claim 4, wherein said plurality of braces is manufactured from a light-weight material selected from the group consisting of Birchwood, balsa wood, pine, light-weight wood, sheet metals, metals, plastics, polyvinylchloride, fiber-plastic composites, rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, rigid expanded polystyrene, structured foam, cellulose materials, and combinations thereof.

6. The tray ceiling of claim 1, wherein said tray ceiling is selected from the group consisting of double tray ceilings, hexagonally-shaped tray ceilings, octagonally-shaped tray ceilings, square-shaped tray ceilings, rectangularly-shaped tray ceilings, circularly-shaped tray ceilings, and ovally-shaped tray ceilings.

7. The tray ceiling of claim 1, wherein said tray ceiling is an integrally formed unit.

8. The tray ceiling of claim 1, wherein the support bars are selected from the group consisting of T-bars, tracks, rails, and combinations thereof.

9. The tray ceiling of claim 8, wherein a selected area of the support bars and associated drop ceiling panels are removed to yield an open area bordered by a perimeter of support bars.

10. The tray ceiling of claim 9, wherein said tray ceiling is supported by the perimeter of support bars.

11. The tray ceiling of claim 1, wherein said tray ceiling is adapted to receive a light fixture or ceiling fan assembly.

12. An apparatus for enabling the recessed mounting of an overhead light source or fan assembly to a drop ceiling, said apparatus comprising: a tray ceiling adapted to be installed within and supported by the support bars of the drop ceiling, wherein the overhead light source or fan assembly is recessedly mounted to said tray ceiling.

13. An apparatus for increasing the floor-to-ceiling height of a selected area of a drop ceiling, said apparatus comprising: a tray ceiling adapted to be installed within and supported by the support bars of the drop ceiling.

14. The tray ceiling of claim 13, wherein said tray ceiling comprises a plurality of side walls in communication with an upper wall.

15. The tray ceiling of claim 14, wherein said plurality of side walls and said upper wall are formed from a light-weight material selected from the group consisting of Birchwood, balsa wood, light-weight wood, plastics, polyvinyl chloride, fiber-plastic composites, rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, rigid expanded polystyrene, structured foam, cellulose materials, and combinations thereof.

16. The tray ceiling of claim 15, wherein said plurality of side walls and said upper wall are structurally reinforced via a plurality of braces.

17. The tray ceiling of claim 16, wherein said plurality of braces is manufactured from a light-weight material selected from the group consisting of Birchwood, balsa wood, pine, light-weight wood, sheet metals, metals, plastics, polyvinylchloride, fiber-plastic composites, rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, rigid expanded polystyrene, structured foam, cellulose materials, and combinations thereof.

18. The tray ceiling of claim 13, wherein said tray ceiling is selected from the group consisting of double tray ceilings, hexagonally-shaped tray ceilings, octagonally-shaped tray ceilings, square-shaped tray ceilings, rectangularly-shaped tray ceilings, circularly-shaped tray ceilings, and ovally-shaped tray ceilings.

19. The tray ceiling of claim 13, wherein said tray ceiling is an integrally formed unit.

20. The tray ceiling of claim 13, wherein the support bars are selected from the group consisting of T-bars, tracks, rails, and combinations thereof.

21. The tray ceiling of claim 20, wherein a selected area of the support bars and associated drop ceiling panels are removed to yield an open area bordered by a perimeter of support bars.

22. The tray ceiling of claim 21, wherein said tray ceiling is supported by the perimeter of support bars.

23. The tray ceiling of claim 13, wherein said tray ceiling comprises a centrally-disposed brace adapted to support a light fixture or ceiling fan assembly mounted to said tray ceiling, wherein said tray ceiling comprises a throughhole for channeling therethrough electrical wires housed above the drop ceiling for electrical engagement of same to the recessedly mounted light fixture or ceiling fan assembly.

Description:

This application is a Continuation Application of and claims priority to U.S. Non-Provisional patent application, Ser. No. 10/778,259 filed Feb. 13, 2004, and entitled, “Tray Ceiling for Drop Ceilings and Method of Manufacture and Installation Therefor”, currently co-pending.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to tray ceilings, and more specifically to a tray ceiling for drop ceilings and method of manufacture and installation therefor. The present invention is particularly applicable to, although not strictly limited to, installation within a room having a low-level drop ceiling, thereby facilitating the recessed mounting of light fixtures and/or ceiling fan assemblies therewithin.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Drop ceilings are often installed within office buildings, finished residential basements and/or academic buildings in lieu of conventional sheetrock ceilings for variety of purposes, such as expediency and efficiency in completion of building projects, budgetary limitations, effectively and economically masking duct work, electrical work, pipe work, or ceiling supports, and/or providing expeditious access to same.

Even in view of such recognizable benefits, however, drop ceilings noticeably lack the aesthetic appeal commonly associated with painted sheetrock ceilings, smooth ceilings, stucco or plaster ceilings, and/or similar finished fixed ceilings. Moreover, in view of the strong joist-and-beam support structure of traditional fixed ceilings, builders will often incorporate a tray ceiling within the fixed ceiling, thereby enhancing the overall visual depth and aesthetic appeal of same, while providing increased overhead room for recessed mounting of light fixtures and ceiling fan assemblies therewithin. Unfortunately however, although the typical heavy wooden frame and sheetrock assembly of many such tray ceilings is ideal for installation within, and anchoring to, the support structures of fixed ceilings, the structurally weaker arrangement or lattice assembly of T-bars and foam panels associated with traditional drop ceilings simply cannot effectively support such an installation. Accordingly, builders or homeowners seeking to install a tray ceiling within a drop ceiling will often remove the drop ceiling and resort to the application of additional ceiling support structures and sheetrock to build-in or create a tray ceiling—a process that imparts significant materials and labor costs unto the building owner.

Therefore, it is readily apparent that there is a need for a tray ceiling for drop ceilings and method of manufacture and installation therefor, wherein a builder and/or homeowner may expeditiously and relatively effortlessly install a light-weight tray ceiling within a drop ceiling without application of additional support structures and/or sheetrock for anchoring the tray ceiling to joists, beams, and/or other ceiling support structures. There is a further need for a tray ceiling for installation within a drop ceiling, wherein the tray ceiling is sufficiently structured to support the weight of conventional light fixtures and/or ceiling fan assemblies recessedly mounted therewithin.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly described, in a preferred embodiment, the present invention overcomes the above-mentioned disadvantages and meets the recognized need for such a device by providing a tray ceiling for drop ceilings and method of manufacture and installation therefor, wherein a selected area of foam panels and associated intersecting and supporting T-bars of a drop ceiling are removed to form an open area or clearing bordered by a perimeter of T-bars, thereby enabling a suitably dimensioned tray ceiling of simple and light-weight construction to be received, seated, and supported on the perimeter of T-bars, and wherein the tray ceiling is sufficiently structured to support the weight of conventional light fixtures and/or ceiling fan assemblies recessedly mounted therewithin.

According to its major aspects and broadly stated, the present invention in its preferred form is a tray ceiling for drop ceilings and method of manufacture and installation therefor, wherein the tray ceiling comprises a light-weight frame and sheet construction, and wherein the tray ceiling is suitably dimensioned to be received, seated, and supported on a perimeter of T-bars of a conventional drop ceiling.

More specifically, the present invention is a tray ceiling for drop ceilings and method of manufacture and installation therefor, wherein the tray ceiling is preferably manufactured from a light-weight wooden frame comprising a series of wooden triangular-shaped supports and a centrally-disposed support brace, wherein appropriately sized and light-weight wooden sheets, panels, or sections are affixed to the frame to form the tray ceiling. Installation of the completed tray ceiling preferably entails the removal of a selected area of foam panels and associated intersecting and supporting T-bars from a pre-existing, or newly installed, drop ceiling, thereby forming an open area or clearing bordered by a perimeter of T-bars, wherein the perimeter of T-bars is preferably suitably dimensioned to receive the tray ceiling. Thereafter, the tray ceiling is inserted into the open area defined by the perimeter or border of T-bars, and seated and supported on the T-bars, wherein suitable clamps, braces, set screws, or the like, may also be utilized to securely retain the mounting position of the installed tray ceiling. The present tray ceiling further comprises a centrally-disposed throughhole formed through the centrally-disposed support brace of the frame, and extending through the overlying Birchwood section, wherein electrical wires may be selectively channeled or drawn therethrough for the electrical engagement of same to a light fixture or ceiling fan assembly recessedly mounted to the tray ceiling (i.e. to the centrally-disposed support brace).

In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, it is contemplated that the tray ceiling could be formed as a single molded unit via blow-molding, vacuum forming and/or extrusion processes, wherein suitable light-weight plastics, polyvinyl chloride, cellulose materials, or the like, could be utilized as the substrate for forming such a tray ceiling. In another alternate embodiment of the present invention, it is contemplated that the tray ceiling could be formed as a plurality of cooperatively engageable or snap-fit panels, segments and/or sheets, wherein suitable light-weight plastics, polyvinyl chloride, cellulose materials, or the like, could be utilized as the substrate for forming such a tray ceiling.

Accordingly, a feature and advantage of the present invention is its ability to provide a tray ceiling for drop ceilings without application of additional support structures and/or sheetrock for anchoring the tray ceiling to joists, beams, and/or other ceiling support structures.

Another feature and advantage of the present invention is its ability to enable a builder and/or homeowner to expeditiously and relatively effortlessly install a light-weight tray ceiling within a drop ceiling.

Still another feature and advantage of the present invention is its ability to provide a tray ceiling for installation within a drop ceiling, wherein the tray ceiling is sufficiently structured to support the weight of conventional light fixtures and/or ceiling fan assemblies recessedly mounted therewithin.

Still yet another feature and advantage of the present invention is its light-weight construction and framework.

A further feature and advantage of the present invention is its ability to provide the aesthetic qualities commonly associated with traditional sheet rock tray ceilings, but without the weight typically associated therewith.

Still another further feature and advantage of the present invention is its ability to enable the recessed mounting of light fixtures and/or ceiling fan assemblies in rooms comprising relatively low-level drop ceilings.

Still yet another feature and advantage of the present invention is its ability to be shaped and/or dimensioned to yield double tray ceilings, hexagonally-shaped tray ceilings, octagonally-shaped tray ceilings, square-shaped tray ceilings, rectangularly-shaped tray ceilings, or circularly-shaped or ovally-shaped tray ceilings (i.e. with the optional addition of suitable trim and/or molding).

Still yet another and further feature and advantage of the present invention is its ability to incorporate recessed can lighting fixtures for providing a light source flush with the tray ceiling surface.

These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent to one skilled in the art from the following description and claims when read in light of the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will be better understood by reading the Detailed Description of the Preferred and Alternate Embodiments with reference to the accompanying drawing figures, in which like reference numerals denote similar structure and refer to like elements throughout, and in which:

FIG. 1 is an exploded view of a tray ceiling according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an assembled view of a tray ceiling according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is an illustration of the methodology of installation of a tray ceiling according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a side view of a portion of a tray ceiling according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, shown supported on a section of a T-bar of a conventional drop ceiling;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a tray ceiling according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, shown fully assembled and installed within a conventional drop ceiling; and,

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a tray ceiling according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED AND SELECTED ALTERNATIVE EMBODIMENTS

In describing the preferred and selected alternate embodiments of the present invention, as illustrated in FIGS. 1-6, specific terminology is employed for the sake of clarity. The invention, however, is not intended to be limited to the specific terminology so selected, and it is to be understood that each specific element includes all technical equivalents that operate in a similar manner to accomplish similar functions.

Referring now to FIGS. 1-2, the present invention in a preferred embodiment is a tray ceiling 10 for drop ceilings and method of manufacture and installation therefor, wherein tray ceiling 10 preferably comprises upper wall or body 20. first side panel 30. second side panel 40. third side panel 50. fourth side panel 60. upper framing support brackets 70. lower framing support brackets 75. framing support brace assembly 80. inner panels 90. 100. 110 and 120. and underside panel 130. 140. 150 and 160. Framing support brackets 70 and 75. and framing support brace assembly 80. are preferably manufactured from light-weight framing materials, such as 1×1, 1×2, 2×2 and/or 2×4 lumber pieces of selected light-weight woods (i.e. pine, Birchwood, balsa wood, or the like); however, it is contemplated that suitable light-weight metal brackets, metal strips, plastic brackets, plastic strips, polyvinyl chloride brackets, polyvinyl chloride strips, polyvinyl chloride tubing, brackets or strips of fiber-plastic composites, brackets or strips of rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, brackets or strips of rigid expanded polystyrene, sheet-like sections thereof, and/or combinations thereof, could also be utilized to effectuate the requisite light-weight framing of tray ceiling 10. in general. Similarly, body 20. side panels 30. 40. 50 and 60. inner panels 90. 100. 110 and 120. and underside panels 130. 140. 150 and 160. are preferably manufactured from a light-weight Birchwood; although other suitable materials could be utilized, such as, for exemplary purposes only, balsa wood, other light-weight wood, plastics, polyvinyl chloride, fiber-plastic composites, rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, rigid expanded polystyrene, structured foam, cellulose materials, and/or combinations thereof.

Preferably, first side panel 30 is securely attached to second side panel 40 and fourth side panel 60 via screws, nails, or other suitable fasteners, wherein third side panel 50 is also preferably securely attached to second side panel 40 and fourth side panel 60 via screws, nails, or other suitable fasteners, such that in the final construct, side panels 30. 40. 50 and 60 form an approximately rectangular structure. Preferably, each corner formed by the approximately rectangular-shaped construct of side panels 30. 40. 50 and 60 is structurally reinforced by approximately triangular-shaped upper and lower framing support brackets 70 and 75. respectively, secured thereto via screws, nails, or other suitable fasteners.

Preferably, each structurally reinforced corner receives one of inner panels 90. 100. 110 and 120. secured over support brackets 70 and 75 via screws, nails, or other suitable fasteners, thereby forming an approximately hexagonal inner perimeter of tray ceiling 10. Similarly, underside 75 a of each lower support bracket 75 preferably receives one of underside panels 130. 140. 150 and 160. secured thereto via screws, nails, or other suitable fasteners, thereby masking support brackets 70 and 75 .

Thereafter, body 20 is preferably securely attached to upper surfaces 70 a of each upper support bracket 70 via screws, nails, or other suitable fasteners. Preferably centrally disposed on and secured to upper surface 20 a of body 20 are adjacently disposed main braces 82 and 84 of framing support brace assembly 80. wherein first ends 82 a and 84 a. respectively thereof, are preferably flush with edge 20 c of body 20. and wherein second ends 82 b and 84 b. respectively thereof, are preferably flush with opposing edge 20 d of body 20 .

Preferably centrally disposed on and secured to outer surface 41 of side panel 40 are adjacently disposed first side braces 81 and 83. wherein first ends 81 a and 83 a. respectively thereof, preferably extend beyond upper edge 40 a of side panel 40 so as to enable the secured attachment of same to first ends 82 a and 84 a. respectively, of main braces 82 and 84. respectively, via screws, nails, or other suitable fasteners. Second ends 81 b and 83 b of side braces 81 and 83 preferably stop short of bottom edge 40 b of side panel 40 so as to provide the requisite clearance for receipt of the supporting T-bar body or perimeter when tray ceiling 10 is installed within a conventional drop ceiling, as more fully described below.

Similarly, preferably centrally disposed on and secured to outer surface 61 of side panel 60 are adjacently disposed second side braces 85 and 87. wherein first ends 85 a and 87 a. respectively thereof, preferably extend beyond upper edge 60 a of side panel 60 so as to enable the secured attachment of same to second ends 82 b and 84 b. respectively, of main braces 82 and 84. respectively, via screws, nails, or other suitable fasteners. Second ends 85 b and 87 b of side braces 85 and 87 preferably stop short of bottom edge 60 b of side panel 60 so as to provide the requisite clearance for receipt of the supporting T-bar body or perimeter when tray ceiling 10 is installed within a conventional drop ceiling, as more fully described below.

Preferably centrally formed through main brace 84. and extending through body 20. is throughhole 88. wherein electrical wires or cables running through a conventional drop ceiling may be channeled or drawn through throughhole 88. during installation of tray ceiling 10 within the drop ceiling, thereby permitting the electrical engagement of same to a light fixture or ceiling fan assembly recessedly mounted to the tray ceiling (i.e. to centrally-disposed main braces 82 and/or 84 ), as more fully described below.

Referring now to FIGS. 3-4, installation of completed tray ceiling 10 preferably entails the removal of a selected area A of foam tiles or panels P and associated intersecting and supporting T-bars T from a pre-existing, or newly installed, drop ceiling DC, thereby forming open area or clearing OA bordered by a perimeter of T-bars PT, wherein perimeter of T-bars PT is preferably suitably dimensioned to receive tray ceiling 10. Preferably, tray ceiling 10 is inserted into open area OA defined by border or perimeter of T-bars PT, wherein bottom edges 30 b. 40 b. 50 b and 60 b of respective side panels 30. 40. 50 and 60 are preferably seated and supported on perimeter of T-bars PT. It is contemplated that suitable clamps, braces, set screws, or the like, may also be utilized to securely retain the mounting position of tray ceiling 10 within perimeter of T-bars PT following installation and support over same.

As best illustrated in FIG. 5, installed tray ceiling 10 is adapted to receive and support a light fixture L or ceiling fan assembly F recessedly mounted therewithin, wherein suitable light fixture braces or fan mounting braces are preferably secured to underside 20 b of body 20 via driving screws, or similar fasteners, through the fan/light mounting brace, through body 20. and into secured threaded engagement with main braces 82 and/or 84 of framing support brace assembly 80. As described above, electrical power is preferably supplied to light fixture L and/or ceiling fan F via electrical wires or cables E running through drop ceiling DC and channeled or drawn through throughhole 88 of main brace 84 .

Following installation of tray ceiling 10 within drop ceiling DC, or, alternatively, prior to installation of tray ceiling 10. tray ceiling 10 may be suitable caulked, primed and painted to yield an aesthetically pleasing and finished appearance.

As best illustrated in FIG. 6, an alternate embodiment of the present invention contemplates a single molded unit or tray ceiling 200 formed via blow-molding, vacuum forming and/or extrusion processes, wherein suitable light-weight plastics, polyvinyl chloride, fiber-plastic composites, rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, rigid expanded polystyrene, structured foam, cellulose materials, and/or combinations thereof, could be utilized as the substrate for forming tray ceiling 200. In such an embodiment, bottom edge 200 a of tray ceiling 200 would similarly be seated and supported on perimeter of T-bars PT.

In another alternate embodiment of the present invention, it is contemplated that tray ceiling 10 could be formed as a plurality of cooperatively engageable or snap-fit panels, segments and/or sheets, wherein suitable light-weight plastics, polyvinyl chloride, fiber-plastic composites, rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, rigid expanded polystyrene, structured foam, cellulose materials, and/or combinations thereof, could be utilized as the substrate for forming such a tray ceiling.

Although the preferred embodiment of the present invention illustrates an approximately hexagonal-shaped tray ceiling 10. it is contemplated in an alternate embodiment that tray ceiling 10 could be shaped and/or dimensioned to yield a double tray ceiling, octagonally-shaped tray ceiling, square-shaped tray ceiling, rectangularly-shaped tray ceiling, or circularly-shaped or ovally-shaped tray ceilings (i.e. with the optional addition of suitable trim and/or molding).

It is contemplated in another alternate embodiment that ceiling tray 10 could be manufactured with other suitable brace structures of light-weight construct, such as sheet metal brackets or braces, or plastic brackets or braces.

It is contemplated in still another alternate embodiment that body 20 and panels 30. 40. 50. 60. 90. 100. 110. 120. 130. 140. 150 and/or 160 could be manufactured from other suitable light-weight materials, such as, for exemplary purposes only, balsa wood, other light-weight wood, plastics, polyvinyl chloride, fiber-plastic composites, rigid expanded foam polyvinyl chloride, rigid expanded polystyrene, and/or combinations thereof.

It should further be recognized that in addition to the T-bar construction described herein, the supporting and intersecting track or rail systems (i.e. support bars) of conventional drop ceilings may be of other various configurations, and as such, it is within the contemplation of the inventor that tray ceiling 10 may be suitable modified, adapted and/or dimensioned to be supportively received and retained on and/or within such alternate drop ceiling support structures and track systems.

It should also be recognized that because tray ceiling 10 is supported by the perimeter of T-bars PT, tray ceiling 10 may be easily and selectively removed therefrom, thereby enabling access to, and the repair of, duct work, electrical work, structural supports, pipe work, and the like.

Having thus described exemplary embodiments of the present invention, it should be noted by those skilled in the art that the within disclosures are exemplary only, and that various other alternatives, adaptations, and modifications may be made within the scope of the present invention. Accordingly, the present invention is not limited to the specific embodiments illustrated herein, but is limited only by the following claims.


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