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How to build a subwoofer box

This DIY project can be a real money-saver

Custom box

Building your own subwoofer box is a great way to get the look and fit you want, without spending a fortune. All you need is a few basic tools, hardware, and materials.

In this article:

Building a box is a lot of fun and will save you some cash, but DIY jobs aren't for everyone. If you get through this article and decide that box building might not be for you, then check out our selection of high-quality, premade subwoofer boxes.

Cost for materials

We spent right around $25, though your costs will vary depending on what you already have in the garage.

Time spent

Building our sub box took about an hour and a half. Your project could take more time or less, depending on the complexity of your box's shape, and the tools you have at your disposal. We had a roomy, well-equipped shop.

Tools

What you'll need

  • Jigsaw
  • Table saw or circular saw
  • Electric drill with bits for pre-drilling screw holes and driving screws
  • 3/4" MDF (medium density fiberboard)
  • 2" drywall screws
  • Panhead sheet metal screws (1/2" and 3/4")
  • Carpenter's glue
  • Silicon caulk
  • Non-hardening rope caulk
  • Speaker terminal cup — see our full selection of box building supplies
Alpine S-W10D4 S-Series 10" subwoofer

Choosing your subwoofer

When choosing a subwoofer, carefully note the manufacturer's recommended enclosure size, especially if you have limited space in your vehicle. The box volume tells you how big your enclosure needs to be for maximum performance from the sub. The box shown in this article was intended for my Honda CR-V, so I wanted to make sure it wouldn't take up too much space. With that requirement in mind, I chose a 10"  Alpine sub. The manufacturer recommends a box volume of 0.45 to 0.9 cubic feet, so it'll be fine in a small box.

Shop component subwoofers


Planning your subwoofer box design

You can follow these steps to determine the correct dimensions for your subwoofer box design:

Determine the minimum depth of your box. Measure the depth of your subwoofer and add 2 inches. This measurement is the minimum depth of your box (in this article, the depth refers to the front-to-back dimension of the box, with the woofer being mounted to the front).

Determine the minimum height and width of your box. Measure the frame diameter of your woofer, or check the mounting template that may be included with the owner's manual, to determine the minimum height and width for the front of your box. If you plan to mount a grille, be sure to allow for any additional space that may be needed to accommodate it.

Determine the available space in your vehicle. Measure the height, width, and depth of the vehicle space that you are willing to devote to your subwoofer. If the box must be wedge-shaped to fit, you will need to know the depth at the box's top and bottom.

Sketch out your box. Now's the time to sketch your box on paper using the dimensions you've gathered. The box shown in this article is rectangular, but you may find that a wedge-shaped box fits better in your car or truck. Your sketch may look like one of these:

Subwoofer box design

For our examples, let's use the following external dimensions:

Rectangular box Wedge box
Height: 13" Height: 14"
Width: 14" Width: 18"
Depth: 12" Depth 1: 5"
Depth 2: 8"

Determine the internal dimensions and volume of your box. The above steps identified the external dimensions of the box. To determine the internal volume, just subtract the thickness of the wood to be used for construction. If you're using 3/4" MDF (recommended!), then 2 x 3/4", or 1-1/2", will be subtracted from each dimension.

Dimensions

The internal dimensions for our examples:

Rectangular box Wedge box
Height: 11.5" Height: 12.5"
Width: 12.5" Width: 16.5"
Depth: 10.5" Depth 1: 3.5"
Depth 2: 6.5"

Calculate the internal box volume in cubic inches. Based on the internal dimensions, you can calculate the internal volume of the enclosure using the following formula: Height x Width x Depth = Cubic Volume

Let's plug in some numbers:

Rectangular box:

11.5" x 12.5" x 10.5" = 1,509.375 cubic inches

Wedge box: Since the wedge box has two depth dimensions, we need to find the average depth before we can determine the volume. To find the average depth, add the two depth measurements together, then divide by two. Remember that Depth 1 = 3.5 and Depth 2 = 6.5.

3.5" + 6.5" = 10"
10" / 2 = 5"

So, the average depth of the wedge-shaped box is 5". Plug that dimension into the formula:

12.5" x 16.5" x 5" = 1,031.25 cubic inches

Convert cubic inches to cubic feet. Since most manufacturers will provide the recommended box volume in cubic feet, you'll need to convert the internal volume from cubic inches into cubic feet. This is done by dividing the cubic inches by 1,728.

Rectangular box: 1,509.375 / 1728 = 0.873 cubic feet

Wedge box: 1,031.25 / 1728 = 0.597 cubic feet

Adjust your box's volume to match the sub's specifications. Now, compare the volume of the box you've sketched to the manufacturer's recommendation. If it's too large or too small, you can make small adjustments to one dimension until your box's internal volume matches the manufacturer's recommendation as closely as possible. Often, manufacturers will recommend a range of enclosure volumes. You can get good results with a box that's anywhere inside the recommended range.

Determine the final exterior box dimensions. Once you've identified the correct internal dimensions, it's time to add back that 1-1/2" we subtracted in step 5, to derive the new external dimensions. Double check to make sure that these dimensions will fit properly in your car, and you're ready to move on to construction.


Step-by-step instructions for building the subwoofer box

tablesaw
Step 1

We started by measuring and cutting the main pieces of MDF for the front, sides, back and top of the box, using a table saw with a carbide-tipped blade.

Don't have a table saw? Don't worry. If you purchase your MDF at any large home improvement store, they should be able to cut it for you for a small fee. You could also use a circular saw, just be careful to keep your cuts square (smooth, flat cuts help to ensure that the box seals well).

We cut seven pieces total — top and bottom, two sides, the back, and two identical pieces for the front (since it was to be a double thickness).

Drawing cutout
Step 2

After the pieces are cut to size, use a compass, or the template that may be included in your subwoofer's packaging, to mark the woofer cutout on one of the identical front pieces.

Fastening the front boards
Step 3

If you choose to use a double-thickness of MDF for the front panel (this method is recommended — it provides an extremely strong, non-resonant mounting surface for the sub), fasten the two identical front pieces together using plenty of carpenter's glue and several sheet metal screws. Also, the double thickness will serve to strengthen the box as a whole.

If you don't use a double thickness of MDF for the mounting surface, you should definitely plan to use bracing elsewhere in the box for added strength. In fact, it's never a bad idea to use bracing no matter what, especially if your box is larger than a cubic foot. The box will be subjected to extreme internal pressure, so the stronger it is, the better.

The easiest way to add bracing is with 2"x2" strips of lumber. Glue and screw these along at least two of your box's internal seams before attaching the top and bottom.

Drill press
Step 4

Using a drillpress, we made a hole near the inside edge of the circle we had traced, large enough for our jigsaw blade to fit in. If you don't have a drillpress, simply use your handheld drill and a large bit.

jig saw

We cut out the circle with a jigsaw, and the woofer opening was complete.

Terminal cup
Step 5

We followed the same drilling/jigsawing procedures to make a rectangular hole in the box's back panel. This would hold the terminal cup, which we installed next.

After running a bead of silicon caulk around the edge of the terminal cup, we screwed it into place using 1/2" sheet metal screws.

Gluing it together
Step 6

Since the back and front pieces were now complete, it was time to fasten everything together. Note: the largest sides of the box should overlap each of the smaller sides to provide the greatest strength. For our box, that meant that the sides were fastened to the front and back first, and the top and bottom were added last.

MDF can be prone to splitting, so we pre-drilled holes for the screws in each of the pieces to be fastened together. After pre-drilling the holes, we squeezed plenty of carpenter's glue between the pieces. The glue, not the screws, is what will ultimately seal the box, so don't be afraid to pour it on.

Screw it together
Step 7

Then, we fastened the pieces together using our cordless drill and 2" drywall screws. Some of the glue will squeeze out during this step — you can wipe it off the outside of the box using a wet rag, but it's OK to leave it on the inside edges (it'll actually help with the seal).

Clamping the box

After you put together the front, back, and sides, you may find that the box is a little out of square — we did. When you screw the top or bottom on, it should pull things back into alignment. Ours gave us just a little bit of trouble, though, so we used a furniture clamp to get things straightened out.

Now it's a box

After you've glued-and-screwed the sides, front, back, top, and bottom, you're just about done.

Shape it up
Step 8

The next step is to drop the subwoofer in and make sure it fits. If the box has gotten a bit out of square, you may find that the sub is now a tight fit — if so, use coarse sandpaper or a rasp to enlarge the opening a little.

Test fit the sub
Step 9

With the subwoofer in place, we used a pencil to mark the screw hole locations, then removed the subwoofer and pre-drilled holes for the mounting screws.

Caulk the inside
Step 10

To make double sure that everything was sealed, we waited for the glue to dry and ran a bead of silicon caulk over all of the box's internal seals. We used a hand-held tube of caulk, since it would be tough to get a caulk gun down inside the box at this point.

Let the caulk cure for 12-24 hours before putting the subwoofer back in. Some silicon caulk releases acetic acid fumes while curing, which have the potential to destroy subwoofer surrounds.

Rope caulk
Step 11

After the caulk had cured, we hooked up speaker wires from the terminal cup to the subwoofer and placed the subwoofer back in the box, using non-hardening rope caulk (found in the weatherstrip section of the hardware store) to seal it down.


Finishing and customizing the subwoofer box

After finishing the box, I couldn't wait to pop it in my CR-V. After the glue and caulk had dried, we hooked it up to the rear channels of my Alpine 4-channel amplifier using 12-gauge speaker cable. It sounded excellent, and the box was definitely sturdy.

However, since naked MDF leaves something to be desired in the looks department, I checked in with one of Crutchfield's installation specialists to get some ideas on customizing a subwoofer box. He offered up plenty of inspiration and installation tips on all kinds of coverings, from vinyl to carpet and beyond!

Thanks to Kelley Blanton, and to Taylor and Boody Organbuilders of Staunton, VA, for the use of their facility and tools.

Now, it's your turn

Following the directions in this article, you should be able to build your own subwoofer box. Be sure to check out our selection of subwoofer installation accessories — we carry a variety of speaker terminals, port tubes, carpet, and other accessories you need to build your box. And if you need help, contact our advisors.

  • Jake from Coventry

    Posted on 1/31/2021

    Should I insulate the inside of this box at all or leave it as is when completed?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 2/3/2021

    Jake, before you secure the sub to the box, try out temporary insulation and compare the sound with and without to get a sense of what's the best bass for you.
  • Cason from Bear

    Posted on 11/6/2020

    Does the equation to find the volume of the box change since you doubled thickness for the front?

  • King Luwi from Lusaka,Zambia.

    Posted on 8/26/2020

    Nicely explained & all steps very clear to follow. My question is,is putting a breather neccersary on the box?

  • Michael James from Gig harbor wa

    Posted on 7/7/2020

    I'm building a box for 4 Rockford fosgate r2d2 12in 2ohm. I want to make the ports built in instead of the round plastic ones you can get. Question is... can all the speakers share the same airspace with bracing throughout the box and sharing a port, or should they be in their own space with their own port?

  • Jan Felber from CROWN CITY

    Posted on 5/5/2020

    I'm looking for a custom box to fit in my 99 mustang

  • Shiloh from Pittsburgh

    Posted on 9/7/2019

    I am planning on making a rectangular sub box for a 12" sub that requires a volume of .9 cubic ft, but I am curious if designing the box with all 90 degree angles will ruin sound quality as so many people suggest.

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 9/30/2019

    Shiloh, adding polyfill or otherwise altering the right angles in your box is one solution.
  • Bill Ware

    Posted on 2/8/2019

    Step 11 skips over the how-to of wiring. How and with what gauge wire do you connect wires to the sub speaker terminals and the terminal cup.

  • Cameron Novarro from Midland

    Posted on 11/2/2018

    What about for a ported box? Do u just cut a hole in it?

    Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    on 11/5/2018

    Cameron, for tips on building different styles of sub boxes, check out this article by our friends at Kicker.
  • Charles Robinson from Buda

    Posted on 7/29/2018

    With the cost of mdf at the big box home stores these days, a diy box may not offer much in savings at all. Careful shopping online can yield great deals on boxes that will have a much higher level of fit and finish than weekend warrior can hope to expect. Exception being the Kia Soul. Apparently nobody in the mainstream aftermarket thinks this car needs a box... grrr.

  • Doug Hollis from Saltillo, MS.

    Posted on 6/21/2018

    I want to build a sub box for 2 JBL Stage 810's. Per the informaton listed on the Crutchfield website the ideal box volume for this sub is .5 cubic feet. Should this be doubled when putting 2 in one box? I have built a 10" single sub box in the past using this article as my guide. Turned out rather well.

    Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    on 6/22/2018

    Doug, that's correct. You'll double the volume of the box.