There has been much interest recently in porous oxycarbosilane (POCS)-based materials as the ultra-low k dielectric (ULK) in back-end-of-line (BEOL) applications due to their superior mechanical properties compared to traditional organosilicate-based ULK materials at equivalent porosity and dielectric constant. While it is well known that plasma etching and strip processes can cause significant damage to ULK materials in general, little has been reported about the effect of plasma damage to POCS as the ULK material. We investigated the effect of changing the gas discharge chemistry and substrate bias in the dielectric trench etch and also the subsequent effect of the cap-open etch on plasma damage to POCS during BEOL integration. Large differences in surface roughness and damage behaviour were observed by changing the fluorocarbon depositing conditions. These damage behaviour trends will be discussed and potential rationalizations offered based on the formation of pits and craters at the etch front that lead to surface roughness and microtrenching. © 2013 IOP Publishing Ltd.