Thin films of poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) polymer were prepared on a flat, nonporous, poly(styrene) support matrix by adsorption from aqueous solution and were characterized in order to investigate the nonspecific adsorption of proteins to a chromatographically relevant surface. The integrity and surface coverage of the PVA thin films were established by surface analysis and atomic force microscopy imaging. The adsorption of the PVA polymers to the poly(styrene) substrate and the nonspecific adsorption of proteins to the PVA-coated surface were monitored using surface plasmon resonance. PVA was strongly bound to the poly(styrene) surface, but the surface density of the adsorbed PVA polymers was affected substantially by the concentration, molecular weight, and degree of hydrolysis of PVA polymers used. There was evidence of increasing degrees of unfolding of the PVA polymer onto the poly(styrene) surface as the concentration of the the PVA coating solution increased. Complete PVA coverage of the poly(styrene) surface was observed at PVA concentrations of 0.1 mg/mL or greater but with significant influence of both molecular weight and degree of hydrolysis of the PVA polymers. Resistance of the PVA-coated poly(styrene) surface to the nonspecific adsorption of human serum albumin (HSA) correlated with the degree of surface coverage of the PVA. The use of anti-HSA as a probe for adsorbed HSA suggested that HSA was displacing PVA from the poly(styrene) surface at the lower PVA surface coverage. A complete barrier to nonspecific protein adsorption was observed with a PVA coating solution concentration of greater than 0.1 mg/ mL with a degree of hydrolysis of <88%.