Sara, this is a great question so I will try to answer it in enough detail so you know what to do.
First off, as far as materials, Most if not all shingles sold in your region will meet local codes for wind resistance. This is the ability of the shingle not to tear off in higher winds. Often what you see in the Jacksonville area and being near the east coast. So no worry about that.
The next thing you need to understand is that shingles come with different life span warranties. These range from 20 and go up to 50+ years. And of course like anything else the longer the life span the more they cost.
You should choose your shingle life span on how long you plan to live in the home. You do not want to purchase a lower cost shingle if your planning to move just after the life span of the shingle warranty runs out. So choose this wisely and it will save you in the long run.
The next item on your list should be rebates for products. Both from the manufacture, if they have them, and Energy Star rebates from the government in the form of tax savings. There are special colors that qualify for energy rebates and not all manufactures offer this. So be sure to check their web sites when looking for products that they meet this criteria. It will not only make the home more comfortable but will save you some money long term.
Once you have chosen the shingles both color and brand, most manufactures sites offer names of qualified installers that meet their requirements in putting their products on. So that would be the first place to start. Once you have received this list, check the BBB, and ask for their insurance, and references. Ask them for one that they just did, one that they did perhaps a year ago, and one on a job that they did a few years prior if they have been around.
Be sure that they pull the required permits. Do not fall into the trap that you must pull them. While you can, it is just better that they do it as if there is any issue with the contractor in the town, they will not be able to pull the permit so it is sort of an additional evaluation on them.
Last but not least, read the agreement and the terms of payment. One third, one third and final payment after township approves the install is common. Do not pay for 50% first then balance on day of job being done. Most permit requirements tell the owners not to pay the final bill until the township approves the job. At worse it will take one or two days once the job is complete to get this done.
Thank you so much! I'm not even sure if I'm getting a new roof. Had some damage from the recent storm and made an insurance claim. I don't even know how that works - never made a claim before. But, the ins company did say I would have to get the estimates so this is good to know. Thanks for seeing and responding to my post!
When hiring a roofing contractor it really should come down to trust, based on due diligence. Make sure to meet the potential roofers. Who gives you the best overview of what is to be done? Insist on seeing the proposals in writing. Who has included the highest level of detail? Look around the BBB, though when checking the BBB ONLY pay attention to complaints, not their silly grading system. If they have more than 2 or 3 complaints in a 3 year period, be careful! Look at Angies List see their reviews. Perform a google search since there are numerous other websites where people can post opinion, check their facebook page and see what they are chatting about.
Oh by the way in regards to the online reviews remember anyone can say anything about anyone. I discovered someone in Beverly Hills CA posted on my Yelp 1 star ans said not to hire my company. I have no idea why since we are in Chicago, IL Doesn't make sense so exercise good judgement when doing this kind of research.
I wrote up an article I have posted on my website to help explain to other home owners how to evaluate their potential contractors... http://www.reliableamerican.us/articles/hire-your-contractor.htm