David Samuelson stands in the bare, still-damp space in his basement that was once his son's room.

Outside on the front lawn of his Montreal home is a growing pile of waterlogged debris that was once part of his home: wood, drywall, furniture, stuffed animals and shoes.

Samuelson is one of many Montrealers facing a daunting cleanup after the historic floods that swept through their neighbourhoods last week, filling homes with several feet of water and forcing residents to leave.

With water levels dropping across the province, many citizens are gradually being allowed home to assess the damage to their properties. Many are facing weeks or months of renovations that they say will cost tens of thousands of dollars.

On Samuelson's street in Montreal's Pierrefonds borough on Sunday, homeowners were busy ripping up floorboards and stripping out drywall and insulation.

Samuelson, 42, said he stayed to save as much as he could until the water reached waist high, but was forced to abandon 90 per cent of the items in his finished basement, which was mostly a space for his three children.

Now it's all ruined and needs to be removed quickly to prevent mould from setting in.

He says the damages to his place are estimated almost $60,000 although the true costs are harder to calculate.

"It's toys, it's memories, so many things that didn't have a price," he said. "It's big amounts."

Authorities have sought to reassure flood victims that financial aid will be available to them.

Premier Philippe Couillard has said compensation evaluated and likely increased. The City of Montreal has offered the services of city inspectors and electricians to ensure homes are safe.

But most homeowners say they'll still be left with thousands of dollars to pay and some doubt they'll get anything at all.

Gisela Schmidt, 50, says she's been told she won't get any financial help in repairing the home she owns for her 78-year-old mother to live in. Schmidt says she isn't eligible for aid because the home isn't her primary residence.

"They won't offer us one cent for us," she said in front of the small white-sided home. "I asked them what to do with my mother and they told me, 'put her somewhere else.'"

She said the renovations will cost between $50,000 and $80,000 depending on how much moisture has penetrated the walls.

Unlike many homeowners, she said she had insurance that covers a small portion of the damage and her company sent her a cheque, no questions asked. But she says that doesn't make it easier on her mother, who can no longer live in her home and is forced to throw out all her belongings.

"She's trying to part with her things and it's difficult," Schmidt said. "She wants to try and save things and we just can't."

Another resident, who gave his first name as Marcel, was able to see the humour in the situation.

The sign in front of his house reads, "For sale. Price revised. Negotiable!" a joke for his neighbours, he said. Conditions are similar in the eastern Ontario communities that were hit hard by the flooding.

Christina Hajjar of Cumberland, Ont. has been living at an inn for nearly two weeks while her family waits to hear the fate of their two homes. She lives with her sister in a house next door to the house where her mother, aunt and uncle live.

"I walked inside my house the other day, my floors are squishy," she said. "I'm sinking in my floors, they're so damaged. I walked on another part and I heard a huge crack. This is not a structure that can be saved."

She says she's not optimistic that either home can be salvaged.

"When you have water hip-deep outside your house and a foot deep inside your house, there goes your foundation," she said.

In order for her home to conform to living conditions, Hajjar says, "you would have to tear down every single wall in that place. I don't even know what it's going to consist of. I'm overwhelmed."

With files from Maija Kappler in Toronto

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