In this study, methacrylic acid (MAA) and acrylic acid (AA) were photografted onto the ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) plates at different monomer concentrations and temperatures, and the grafted UHMWPE plates were bonded with aqueous polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) solutions. The tensile shear adhesive strength of both grafted UHMWPE plates was also discussed in relation to wettability and water absorptivity. The location of failure was also estimated by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Wettability of the MAA-grafted UHMWPE plates became constant, when the UHMWPE surface was fully covered with grafted PMAA chains. Conversely, wettability of the AA-grafted UHMWPE plates passed through the maximum value and then gradually decreased against the grafted amount probably due to aggregation of grafted PAA chains. Water absorptivity of the grafted layers formed at lower monomer concentrations or temperatures sharply increased at lower grafted amounts. The adhesive strength increased with the grafted amount and substrate breaking was observed at higher grafted amounts, indicating that a main factor to increase the adhesive strength is the formation of a grafted layer by shorter grafted polymer chains and/or the restriction of the location of photografting to the outer surface region. In addition, surface analysis by XPS showed that failure occurred in the boundary between the layer composed of grafted polymer chains and PVA chains and the ungrafted layer at a low adhesive strength, and the location of failure was shifted to the grafted layer containing PVA chains at the grafted amount increased. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 40133.