Uniform corrosion is characterized by corrosive attack proceeding evenly over the entire surface area, or a large fraction of the total area. General thinning takes place until failure. On the basis of tonnage wasted, this is the most important form of corrosion.
However, uniform corrosion is relatively easily measured and predicted, making disastrous failures relatively rare. In many cases, it is objectionable only from an appearance standpoint. As corrosion occurs uniformly over the entire surface of the metal component, it can be practically led control by cathodic protection, use of coatings or paints, or simply by specifying a corrosion allowance. In other cases uniform corrosion adds color and appeal to to a surface. Two classics in this respect are the patina created by naturally tarnishing copper roofs and the rust hues produced on weathering steels.
The breakdown of protective coating systems on structures often leads to this form of corrosion. Dulling of a bright or polished surface, etching by acid cleaners, or oxidation (discoloration) of steel are examples of surface corrosion. Corrosion ant resist alloys and stainless steels can become tarnished or oxidized in corrosive environments. Surface corrosion can indicate a breakdown in the protective coating system, however, and should be examined closely for more advanced attack. If surface corrosion is permitted to continue, the surface may become rough and surface corrosion can lead to more serious types of corrosion.