In the early part of the 20th century, various organizations, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (formerly the National Bureau of Standards), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, ASTM Committee C-1 on Cement, and the Portland Cement Association, began efforts to standardize the specifications and methods for testing portland cement. This eventually lead to the establishment of the Cement Reference Laboratory (CRL) in 1929 at NIST with ASTM Committee C-1 as its sponsor. Inspection of laboratories was designated as the primary CRL activity. Until 1947, laboratory inspections were limited to laboratories performing physical tests on hydraulic cements. The inspection activity was gradually expanded to include concrete testing and ASTM Committee C-9 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates became a joint sponsor in 1958. The name Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratory (CCRL) was adopted in 1960. The CCRL Laboratory Inspection Program has expanded in scope over the years to include cement, concrete, aggregate, steel reinforcing bars, pozzolan,and masonry materials (mortar and solid units). Over 1100 laboratories in the United States, Canada and Mexico currently receive inspections.

The second major CCRL activity is the distribution of proficiency samples for interlaboratory testing. The first portland cement sample was distributed in 1936. Samples have been added over the years with the current program including portland cement, blended cement, masonry cement, portland cement concrete, pozzolan, and masonry materials (mortar and solid units). Participation levels varies from 46 laboratories in the masonry mortar program to 1106 in the portland cement concrete program.