A major problem to be addressed with thin composite films used in processes such as coatings or water purification is the biofouling of the surface. To address this problem in a model system, functionalized polyaramide membranes containing an atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) initiator were synthesized as a versatile approach to easily modify the surface properties of the polyaramide. Poly(methacrylic acid) brushes were grown using surface initiated ATRP followed by the functionalization of the poly(methacrylic acid) brushes with different side-chains chosen to reduce adhesion between the membrane and foulant. The relation between membrane fouling and the physicochemical properties of the surface was investigated in detail. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.