By Roberta Codemo

James Mlinar first fell in love with log cabins when he was a kid after he and his family stayed in one while vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado. “They’re part of our history,” he said.

Having always enjoyed building things, he jumped at the opportunity to help his brother build his log home several years ago and walked away impressed with the company his brother used – True North Log Homes. He approached them and expressed interest in becoming a dealer.

“They’re an industry leader,” said Mlinar, who has worked in construction and holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology.

He joined the company in 2015 and recently opened Prairie Log Homes, making him one of the  first log home dealers in Illinois. He named his new venture after the Prairie State to tie into Springfield. “This was an opportunity to do something different,” he said. “Once I found out more about the company, it was a good investment.”

Headquartered in Bracebridge, Ontario, True North Log Homes has been building log homes for more than 30 years and has a reputation for manufacturing the most technologically advanced log homes on the market. The company uses local suppliers on a build when possible, to cut down on shipping costs and save money.

“A lot of people call them kit homes,” said Mlinar because the logs come factory-made. Each home is constructed from either eastern white pine or western red cedar with Douglas fir and comes with the industry’s first 25-year zero air infiltration warranty and a five-year finish guarantee. All doors and windows are custom-made at the factory to specially fit each log home.

Mlinar has already started receiving phone calls and has had several realtors express interest. There are several log homes in the Springfield area.

According to the company’s literature, there is a small cost difference between frame construction and log home construction, which is estimated at about 10 percent. The cost is offset by the home’s finished value, which appreciates with time.

Mlinar estimates that the average cost of a 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom home is a few hundred thousand dollars. “It’s high end,” he said.

“I go where the customer is,” continued Mlinar, who serves as a liaison between the builder, True North and the end user. “My job is to be there for the customer.”

He carries his Planbook, which he calls a coffee table catalog, with him wherever he goes. It explains not only the technical aspects of the company’s log home construction but showcases interiors and exteriors of True North Log Homes and contains floor plans and decorating ideas.

Mlinar works with clients through the initial design phase to completion. The company offers a choice of log styles and sizes, including finishes and hand-crafted accents. Each home is built to serve the needs of the homeowner.

Every home meets True North’s specifications and features the company’s patented Log Lock Compression System, which is the only self-adjusting, self-tightening device that prevents air infiltration and log separation. Additional features that come standard include a butt spline assembly, six seal tongue and grove system, keylock air seal corner and keyspline post slide system.

Every True North home is built to last and are more energy-efficient and require less maintenance than traditional frame construction. “All you have to do is put a finish on it every five years,” said Mlinar.

Log homes have a timeless appeal, evoking images of warm, cozy, comfortable living spaces. Typically associated with the mountains, log homes were commonplace on the prairie.

“There’s always someone who wants one,” said Mlinar. “The home sells itself because of the technology.”

Roberta Codemo is a full-time freelance writer. She can be reached at