Three-dimensional kinetic Monte Carlo calculations have been carried out to study the film growth of SiO2 by a TEOS–O2 plasma mixture. The kinetic surface mechanisms take into account the nucleation phase process, the physisorption of reactive TEOS fragments, and the migration process. The main process contributing to the SiO2 growth is the formation of the oxygen bridge between two surface silicon sites. The simulations show the role of the substrate energy and the percentage of the nucleation center on the nucleation phase evolution. Good adhesion is obtained for a high surface energy of the substrate. A high surface energy increases the mobility of the reactive species on the surface substrate by the reduction of the desorption process in the early stage. On the other hand, the increase of the oxidation probability leads to the decrease of the mobility of physisorbed species on the film surface and, consequently, to increased root-mean-square roughness of the deposited film. © 2001 American Vacuum Society.