© 2016 Elsevier Ltd Surface modification of porous membranes for water filtration has been extensively reported in the literature to improve fouling resistance. However, surface modification can significantly change the membrane filtration properties, sometimes resulting in more severe fouling than with the original, unmodified membrane. This study focused on demonstrating surface modification strategies and membrane comparison strategies to better understand the complex, competing phenomena occurring when membranes are surface modified. Polysulfone ultrafiltration membranes were modified with polydopamine (PDA) at different initial dopamine concentrations and deposition times. Membrane properties, including surface hydrophilicity, roughness, and zeta potential, were characterized. PDA coatings significantly increased surface hydrophilicity, but they did not markedly change the surface roughness or zeta potential. The threshold flux during oil/water emulsion filtration was determined and used as a fouling parameter for membranes modified with PDA at various modification conditions. The threshold flux increased when PDA was deposited at low initial dopamine concentrations or short coating times. However, PDA deposition at high initial dopamine concentrations or long coating times decreased the threshold flux, suggesting that a tradeoff exists between increased hydrophilicity and reduced pore size due to surface modification. An increase in membrane surface hydrophilicity was observed at all PDA deposition conditions, which tends to reduce foulant adhesion and increase threshold flux. However, extensive PDA coating significantly decreased membrane pure water permeance, suggesting that some membrane pores may have been narrowed or blocked, increasing local permeate flux through the remaining pores in the PDA-modified membranes. This higher local flux would exacerbate fouling and decrease threshold flux. Comparing unmodified and PDA-modified membranes having similar pure water permeance values, the PDA-modified membranes had higher threshold fluxes than the unmodified membranes.