A procedure to estimate the seismic motion at the base of a building from measured acceleration response at two or more floors is presented. The proposed method is comprised of two steps. In the first step, the dynamic characteristics of the building are inferred by using an output-only system identification procedure. In the second step, the motion of the base of the building is estimated by using the transfer function of a simplified building model consisting of a shear and flexural continuous beam together with dynamic properties obtained in the first step. The proposed method is validated first with an analytical model subjected to the 1940 El Centro ground motion and then with an instrumented building in California that experienced the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the ground motions at the base of the building are available. It is shown that the proposed method is capable of providing very good estimates of the motion at the base. The use of the proposed method is finally illustrated on an instrumented building, where the sensor at the base of the building did not function during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.