I pulled up some old flooring. Underneath there is material that looks like paper, maybe fabric, that is glued to the hardwood below. I would like to refinish the hardwood. Is there an easy way to determine if the material on top of the wood has asbestos in it?
From the similar questions linked in the comments above, the general answer is to:
Avoid ripping or tearing that would result in dust. It's only in the form of dust that asbestos is hazardous.
You can get an inexpensive test kit or check with local companies that perform this test.
If it is asbestos, only have a professional attempt to remove it.
Generally speaking this is not a DIY question. The reason is that there's no truly safe method to determine this yourself.
What is asbestos, and why is it so feared?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fiber that is both strong and heat resistant. These qualities lead it to be a common ingredient in many products, including drywall, floor tiles, and insulation. It is also highly toxic if inhaled (specifically it is the leading cause of mesothelioma, a type of cancer).
What determines if a product could have asbestos?
Mostly age. The dangers of asbestos really came into focus in the 1970s and 1980s. Products made after this time are highly unlikely to have asbestos. Before that period, however, there is a chance your product has asbestos in it to some degree.
How do I test for asbestos?
The best answer is to call a professional company in. The reason why is that asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed. Specifically, if you cut asbestos products, you run the risk of releasing asbestos fibers into the air. A professional company will not be cheap, but they will know how to safely take a sample and test for it. The fibers are microscopic, so there is no true DIY test for this.
Why are there DIY test kits?
These kits vary wildly in how safe they make collecting a sample for you. The better kits have a near-full contamination safety kit that can (in some cases) let you get a sample safely... but you will have disturbed the asbestos in the process. That means you have potentially contaminated your home. Some of the cheaper kits only give you a simple medical mask (not even a N95 at that) and vinyl gloves. That means you might have contaminated your clothes as well.